Women are always being told that they must watch what they wear. Some of the politicians have also gone on record saying that women must refrain from wearing “indecent” clothing in order to protect themselves from being raped. I guess every woman can relate to that look on a man’s face when he is lost in examining your cleavage without the slightest idea that he has being noticed.

But do women also respond in the same way when they look at the man’s chest through his shirt or even his diamond dike in public? While some of us might steal a quick, guilty gaze, most of us would look away, completely ignoring the existence of something as sexually arousing as the women’s cleavage is for the man.

Well, we have been told that men’s chests are not as attractive as a woman’s breasts. It’s a form of socialization that is now so old that it has been coded in our genes. While only the man’s reproductive organ is considered to be indicative of his sexuality, it is the woman’s entire body that is the object of sexuality, defined in a world that is controlled and mostly run by men themselves.

today it is seen as a symbol of self- expression and freedom

Sexuality is one thing, there is also a lot of emphasis on control on women’s autonomy and self- expression. If a woman dresses up a certain way, it is in order to express her sense of aesthetics. She might dress up in a ‘sexually explicit’ way, and it is quite possible that it is done to attract attention of the person she is attracted to.

The attention that women garner from dressing up also helps them develop a more confident outlook towards self and self-worth too.

Women should wear what they want

The idea of dressing up in a more “feminine” fashion is another socialization that we women are brought up with. Girls who dress up rather casually are often categorized as ‘tom-boys’. Cross- dressing as a form of self- expression also emanates from the same idea of breaking out from normative gender identities.

Girls who dress up rather casually are often categorized as ‘tom-boys’

Historically, certain styles of dressing up have been associated with certain cultures. While Hindu women wore sarees since uncut fabric symbolized purity, Muslim women wear burkha and hijab to symbolize modesty, faith and detachment from the carnal.

With the Industrial Revolution and rise in capitalism and western hegemonic cultures (our definition of right is defined by the hegemonic nation of the world, currently USA), definitions of ideal dressing kept changing, subject to the nation in power. During Victorian times, the more fabric that was there on a woman’s body, the more affluent she was considered. Then came the times of Marylyn Monroe and Pamela Anderson. Their sense of dressing was seen as an act if rebellion at the time they did it, but today it is seen as a symbol of self- expression and freedom.

Rihanna’s see through dress at the CFDA Awards last year created a lot of stir amongst feminists from different schools of thought.

While many people would ask, ‘why does a woman have to dress in a particular way’, my question to the world is, “Why is it that we do we not put men’s perception of women’s dressing under the scanner?”

Feature image: Kate Bergquist